Let That Which Cannot Be, Be Part II
In a culturally backward environment all of this progressed very slowly and with much difficulty, but he didn’t give up. Oftentimes judged and hated, he said of himself: “I am a ruler among barbarians, and a barbarian among rulers.” His patriotic and nationalistic pride is oftentimes connected with the famous statement that Montenegrins do not love chains, but that fact is perhaps all the more vividly illustrated by a document found in the archives in Trieste which states that the Bishop di Montenegro was arrested and questioned because of the sale of valuable jewelry. That was the year of the drought, 1847, when he sold the medal he received from the Austrian statesman, Klemens von Metternich, in order to buy wheat. To his impoverished people, who had to take every nugget of fertile land from the stone they lived on, he gave of his treasures.
During the entire time of his rule Njegos worked in the literary field. He wrote many patriotic, religious, thoughtful poems which were later published under the title Lesser poems. He sung Svobodijadu, a poetic work consisting of ten poems of the victory of the Montenegrins over the Turks and wrote his major literary work Luca Mikrokozmos (The Ray of the Microcosm, Belgrade 1845), Gorski Venac (The Mountain Wreath, Vienna 1847) and Lazni tzar Scepan mali (The False Tsar Stephen the Little, Zagreb 1851). His works are a typical example of how folk literature grew into artistic. Freedom loving and free thinking were fully preserved, and the diction, pattern and religious value of every character and verse, elevates it to the level of ancient tragedy. Even though The Ray of the Microcosm is his best work, The Mountain Wreath is much more popular, since it deals with a historical theme – the search of the poturica (Serbs who converted to Islam). The majority of the characters are real, but the work is filled with myths, beliefs, traditions, sayings and proverbs to such a level that the flow of the story is at times lost in the deeply cosmic, meaningful and at times ambiguous verses. Njegos raised the battle of a small nation for freedom to the level of a battle between darkness and light, between slavery and freedom, backward and forward, humanity and inhumanity. Thus, The Mountain Wreath, while remaining specifically Montenegrin, is raised to the level of those worldly works of art, which with their battle for freedom and progress, have a general importance, and as current as it was at the time it was conceived, it is current today in all regions where basic human rights are threatened. The perfect decasyllable of the literature of the 19th century of old was approachable to the common person, while today it could contribute to a better understanding of folk literature which is unjustly neglected.
The bishop, statesman and poet, became ill of tuberculosis in 1850 and following unsuccessful treatment in Italy he passed away on October 10, 1851. According to his personal wish, he was buried on Mount Lovcen. A mausoleum was built in 1974 at the site of the old chapel which was destroyed. At the level of the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Coastlands, May 19th is the date established when Njegos is celebrated as a saint.
Of his earthly belongings which he owned hardly anything exists. His books, clothes, pens, even his manuscripts disappeared. However, his works exist to this day. There is no Montenegrin that holds to his origin even in the slightest and doesn’t know The Mountain Wreath by heart. Njegos is with them everyday, through everyday conversations interwoven through his profound verses, through the wind from Lovcen which never fully stops.
If he ever asked while still alive, whether the wavering ever hindered his peace, this 200th anniversary of our deep respect which is not even slightly decreased through the passing of time, can give him an answer – yes, he is one of the rare one who had a purpose to be born.